Navy sailors' drowning deaths a mystery

By: Deborah Horne


Whidbey Island, Wash. - Vinson Ya was a Navy sailor born in California but he loved to kayak in the picturesque, treacherous waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca off Whidbey Island.

"He has kayaked here several times before," said his brother, Toucha.

KIRO 7 met Toucha Ya, overlooking Libbey Beach Park in Coupeville, the place where his brother so often came to do what he loved.

 "Yeah, he loved to fish," said Ya.

Last weekend, Vinson Ya planned to go out again but was wary about the conditions.

 "He was telling me that the waves were a little rough on Friday and he didn't expect that," said Toucha Ya.  "(He was) hoping it would calm down on Saturday."

 Saturday, Vinson Ya and a Navy buddy, 21-year-old Joey Lee, set out in individual kayaks to fish for halibut.

 "He was really like getting all excited," Toucha Ya said of his brother.

 Just before 10 o'clock Saturday night, neighbors heard screams and called 911.  The authorities searched for an hour and a half but came up empty.  That upsets Toucha Ya.

 "I'm assuming my brother's energy has already ran out," said Ya. "From calling for help and hypothermia might (have) already kicked in."

 His brother and friend were found dead early the next morning.   Still, he is philosophical about it.

 "This is a fishing tragedy," said Ya.  "You know, it's Mother Nature.  My brother is 25. Too young, too young to go."

The sailors were stationed at the Whidbey Naval Air Station. They are to be remembered at a memorial service there Friday.

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